Asia - Pacific

Afghan Taliban acknowledge ties with Moscow, Tehran

Afghan MPs and officials voice skepticism about intentions of Moscow and Tehran in Afghanistan

30.12.2016
Afghan Taliban acknowledge ties with Moscow, Tehran Afghan security forces conduct an operation against Taliban to retake Ghormach district of Faryab province in Afghanistan on October 16, 2016. (Mohammad Hassan Abdullah - Anadolu Agency)

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Afghanistan

The Afghan Taliban group has acknowledged its ties with Moscow and Tehran, projecting them as proof of their legitimacy and their supposed diplomatic success.

In a series of messages shared on their official website on Thursday, the militant group said: “It is joyous to see that the regional countries have also understood that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [the name the Afghan Taliban use for themselves] is a political and military force.”

The group reiterated its stance that its movement was a “national uprising against foreign invaders that has neither interfered in the internal affairs of other countries”.

On Wednesday, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, national security adviser, told Azadi Radio – the Pashto service of the Radio Free Europe -- in an interview that the ties among Moscow, Tehran and the Taliban were "worrying" for their country.

Atmar said Russia and Iran were friendly countries of Afghanistan, which should use their contacts with the Taliban for the sake of peace in Afghanistan.

Last month, Alexander Mantytskiy, Russian ambassador to Afghanistan, and Zamir Kabulov, special representative of Russia in Afghanistan-Pakistan, caused uproar here when they acknowledged ties between the Taliban and Russia. These diplomats claimed contacts with the Taliban were only for the security of Russian diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.

“In media reports, Russia and Iran have said they have ties [with the Taliban], but are not supporting [them]. The government of Afghanistan wants to know if you [Iran and Russia] are not supporting them then what are these contacts for?” Atmar asked.

He cautioned Iran and Russia to learn from Pakistan’s experience, which faced the wrath of terrorist groups when it began differentiating between “good and bad terrorists”.

“In the fight against terrorism, contacts between the states should be supreme over ties between a state and terrorists, so, as friendly countries [Iran and Russia] should come and use these contacts for peace in Afghanistan, and not for war,” he said.

The top Afghan diplomat had also expressed hope the new U.S. administration under the President-elect Donald Trump would stand by Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism.

Meanwhile, Afghan lawmakers were also increasingly becoming skeptical about the intentions of Moscow and Tehran.

Afghan officials in western Farah province have accused Iran of equipping and harboring the Taliban. Similar concerns have been raised by security officials in restive northern Kunduz province that borders Tajikistan. Kunduz briefly fell to the Taliban earlier this year, and Afghan officials claimed to have confiscated Russian arms from the Taliban after reclaiming it.

Gul Ahmad Azimi, a lawmaker from Farah province, had urged the Wolesi Jirga (the lower house) earlier this week that the government in Kabul should raise this issue of interference by other countries in their internal affairs at the United Nations Security Council.

Earlier this week, Moscow had hosted Chinese and Pakistani officials for a trilateral conference on Afghanistan, without any representation from the Kabul government. Prior to this, Russia and Iran publicly acknowledged having contacts with the Taliban.

Also, many in Afghanistan fear the country may turn into yet another battlefield between global powers just like it did during the Cold War.

This fear takes special significance when one takes into account the fact that Kabul and Washington are signatory to the Bilateral Strategic Agreement that guarantees the war-torn country’s backing of the world power.

Analyst Nizamuddin Khan told Anadolu Agency the U.S. was now in Afghanistan just like the then USSR was back in the 1980s while Russia seems to be adapting the role of the then U.S. that backed the so-called mujahedeen to topple the then Moscow-backed regime in Kabul.

“A major difference remains the fact that the public sentiments towards the U.S. and its supported government in Kabul are now much more positive and strong compared to the nationwide anti-government mood during the Soviet invasion,” Khan noted.

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